Using your iPad or iPhone to sign contracts electronically or scan documents

My wife and I both switched jobs this year, so we have had to email a large number of documents back and forth. There were employment contracts to sign, background forms to complete, and so on.

Before the days of mobile devices, exchanging these forms was a bit of a hassle.  You had to print them out, sign them, and then either mail them back in an envelope or scan them on a flat bed scanner and email them.

This time around, we were able to use a pair of iOS applications – DocuSign Ink and Scanner Pro – to make the process easy and painless.

For simply signing a document, DocuSign Ink makes it an entirely paperless process.  I learned about it from a friend who is a lawyer and has to handle the signing of documents on a daily basis.  When someone emails you a contract to sign, you can open it directly  from the mail app on your device, sign it, and email it back, all without ever having to print it out.

When you first use the app, it has you draw your signature using the touch screen.

DocuSign Ink allows you to draw your signature

DocuSign Ink allows you to draw your signature

You then find the signature line in the document and drag your signature onto it. You can quickly scale the signature up or down so that it looks right.  There are also options to add a date or your initials.  When you are done, you hit another button to email the document back to whomever sent it to you.  The whole process takes just a few minutes.  No printing, no fuss.  And it’s free!

DocuSign Ink works great for documents that only require a signature, but for more complicated forms that aren’t designed to be edited electronically, you still need to print them, fill the out, and scan them back in.  This may sound cumbersome, but Scanner Pro makes it extremely easy.

The cameras on the iPhone and iPad have enough resolution for a high quality scan, but the magic of Scanner Pro is that it handles the cropping for you.  Using it is actually faster than a flatbed scanner.

The magic is in the automatic edge detection.  You just set the page down on a surface, make sure you can see it on the screen, and hit the capture button.  You don’t need to worry about it being lined up well.  Scanner Pro automatically spots the edges of the document and marks them for you.  You can make some adjustments if it didn’t get it right, but I have found it to be well over 95% accurate.

The edge detection of Scanner Pro is almost perfect

The edge detection of Scanner Pro is almost perfect

Once you are happy with it, you hit “Done”, and then you have the option of scanning more pages.  Once you have scanned all your pages, Scanner Pro lets you send the document as a PDF over email or upload it to a file sharing service like DropBox.

To give an idea of just how well this works, I recently needed to make some hand-written edits to an 8 page document while flying to California.  Once I had made all of my notes, I simply scanned all 8 pages and emailed it using the in-flight wifi.  The pages did not fit well onto the tray table and the constant rumble of the plane made it impossible to keep the iPad very still, but it didn’t cause any problems for Scanner Pro.  It snapped each one up, detected the edges, and then assembled them into an easy-to-ready PDF.

Scanner Pro is a little more expensive at $6.99, but compared with spending $100 on a flatbed scanner, it’s well worth the price.

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5 Responses to Using your iPad or iPhone to sign contracts electronically or scan documents

  1. cassy says:

    Hi Jeremy, out of curiosity, have you ever heard of writepdf?

  2. Ahron Herring says:

    I’ve been using TurboScan ($1.99 at the app store) for a few months now — very satisfied; sounds quite similar to Scanner Pro.

  3. Natan says:

    On the Mac, Preview lets you sign documents in the same way, and it’s free and built into the OS.

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